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Irene Devastates Two Dairies, Knocks Out Roads, Bridges

11:34AM Aug 29, 2011

Hurricane hits New England dairies hardest; Mid-Atlantic dairies, processing plants lose power but escape with minimal damage.

Two dairy operations west of Albany, N.Y., were completely devastated by flash flood as Hurricane Irene dumped a foot of water on portions of New York and New England.
One herd of 121 cows was completely swept away by the raging waters. A second herd was moved to higher ground before flash flooding destroyed the dairy buildings, says Doug DiMento with Cabot Cheese.
Central, southern and western Vermont bore the brunt of the flooding, with many roads and bridges washed out, adds Bob Stoddard with Agri-Mark. “Some farms will be hard to get to individually for milk pick up,” he says. “Others will simply take longer to reach as trucks are re-routed to avoid road closures and bridge washouts.”
In reality, reports of damage are still coming in so the full extent of the damage is not yet known, both Dimento and Stoddard say.
Loss of power is also an issue in the region. But many dairies have on-farm generators, purchased after ice storms over the past few winters knocked out power. These dairies will be able to milk cows, but milk pickups will likely be delayed and some dumping will likely occur as bulk tanks reach capacity.
“We were without power for 36 hours and just got it back up about an hour ago,” says Charlie Patterson of Chestertown, Md. He and his wife, Sherry, milk 300 cows on their dairy on the state’s eastern shore. The Pattersons relied on their generator to get them through the storm and its aftermath. They had no loss of livestock and minimal disruption to their operations.
‘We had some corn laid down that hasn’t been chopped yet,” Patterson says. “I’m a little worried about that.”
The hurricane also downed numerous trees and caused creeks to flood. “I’ve got a couple of sheets of tin to get tacked down, and some shingles on my house, but the storm wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” he adds.
For the most part, dairy processing facilities escaped unscathed and are operating normally.
“We were pretty fortunate in our area,” says Amber DuMont, spokeswoman for Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Association. “Although many dairies are without power, most are doing pretty well. We haven’t heard of any instances where haulers haven’t been able to pick up milk.”
Dumont said the co-op’s Maola Milk and Ice Cream Co. plant in New Bern, N.C., and its Marva Maid plant in Newport News, Va., sustained minor damage from the hurricane. The Maola plant lost power over the weekend, but had resumed operations on Sunday.
“In anticipation of Hurricane Irene, our processing plants loaded up heavy on milk, and are ramping up production to get product to customers,” Dumont says.
The Holstein Association (HA) offices in Brattleboro, Vt., also escaped damage. News video showed a torrent of flash flooding down through the central part of that city, but luckily HA offices were not in its path. A number of employees were unable to get into work this morning, but business operations are continuing.